Siebel: Week 1 Recap
February 12, 2011
Wow, what a week. This course was obviously going to be intense, but I’m completely drained after the first week of class. It doesn’t help that I was out drinking with the VP of the school last night instead of studying for today’s quiz. Fortunately this quiz was easy.
There’s somewhere around forty students in the class, and it’s been a really interesting experience listening to all of their brewing experiences. One guy from England is taking the course because he’s getting ready to open a brewpub. Another is a guy from a Heineken plant in Cairo. There are guys from all over the country, parts of Canada, and Belize. One is opening a brewpub in Iowa as soon as the course is over, another is going to start a full time position at Firestone Walker. Everyone seems to have a great time hanging out around the bar on the floor above our classroom (yeah, there’s two taps in the school). Tomorrow, we’re planning to get a group and head down to Flossmoor Station brewpub with a possible side trip to Three Floyds for some brewery tour action. 🙂
So, the first week of the course was all about the raw materials for brewing: barley, hops and water (I believe yeast is covered at great depth later in the course). The first three days we learned all about the cultivation and malting of barley. This included learning about growing practices for barley, the diseases it can catch, how growing conditions can impact various characteristics from season to season, and all of the aspects of malting (steeping, germination, kilning, roasting). The main thing we’ll need to worry about as brewers, when it comes to malt characteristics, is how to read a Certificate of Analysis (COA) and see how that batch of malt will impact operations.
Yesterday we went over water chemistry and its impact on brewing in depth. I had been playing around with some water chemistry adjustments over the past year in my own brewing, but never very seriously. After going through an in depth discussion about the effects of every aspect of water on the brewing process, I’m convinced it’s one of the most important things you can look at when trying to adjust your system for consistency and better quality.
Today was the section on hops. The chemical reactions that happen during the boil were laid out, but the discussion of all the different acids, oils, and oxidation products was really enlightening. Unfortunately, it was really tough to focus fully on this topic because I was absolutely dead tired. Most of the other guys said the same thing. It’s been a vary draining week.
So you can see how much information we had crammed into one week, and that was just the basic stuff. Next week we get into a lot of the mash and boil chemistry and all sorts of calculations that are useful around the brewhouse. I’m really looking forward to that stuff. We got the note binders for next week today, so I’ll probably do a bunch of pre-reading on Sunday.
Next week also includes a tour of a Briess malting plant up in Wisconson on Tuesday and a tour of Goose Island’s brewpub equipment on Monday. It’s gonna be a long, intense, and fun week. 🙂